Airports Could Soon Feature Robotic Valets For Your Car

Germany's Dusseldorf Airport on Tuesday welcomed a new employee. The fellow will be heading the airport's valet service, where he'll be parking cars for passengers from all over the world. Fair warning, though: he's...not exactly what you'd expect.

He's a robot.

Robot Ray, as he's known, is an automated, smartphone-connected valet system available to fliers at Dusseldorf. How it works is actually pretty simple. Ray is a sort of automated, robotic forklift, designed to lift vehicles up to 3.3 tons and cart them to designated valet spots. According to airport spokesman Thomas Koetter, the robots are also fully insured, in the event that they inadvertently damage the vehicle of a passenger. 

Once a traveler has decided that they want to use the valet service, they leave their car in a drop-off zone known as the Vehicle Transfer Station.  From there, they access a connected smartphone app to notify the system that their vehicle is empty and ready for pickup. That's when Ray - or one of his colleagues - springs into action.

The station first uses laser scanners to calculate the car's dimensions along with the location of its bumpers, wheels, and mirrors. After it's figured out where the vehicle's going to fit,the car is taken to one of 249 reserved parking spaces. Finally, once the car is safely parked, the customer is given a ticket that they can use to retrieve their car on the return trip. 

No word on what'll happen if you lose your ticket, unfortunately - though I'm sure the engineers who designed Ray accounted for that one way or another.

Dusseldorf's valet service will cost about $39 per day. Although anyone can use it, it's intended for business travelers - and the price will likely limit somewhat who can use it. Still, it's a cool idea, and hopefully one that catches on at other airports, as well.